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Map of Property Owners, 1880

October 19, 2012

These are maps of property owners as listed on the assessment roll for 1880 in New Westminster District.  The maps cover the municipalities of Langley and Surrey and the east part of Delta.

Each map contains the same information, presented in two different ways. The first is indexed by name. The second is by property listing.

*Maps updated to new Google Maps here.

Names Index 1880 map link Property Map 1880
1880 Property Map List of Owner Names 1880 Property Map listed by land parcel

Source of data for the maps

The maps are derived from the Tax Assessment records for 1880. The tax roll gives landowner’s name, the identity of the property, and sometimes records the number of livestock held, and of course the tax due (not included here).

Properties were identified by five different systems of survey.

1. Derby Townsite. This town was laid out and auctioned off in 1858 intending to be the capital of the Colony. Tax data for this townsite was not found.

2. Surveyed  Country Land. Trutch’s survey of country land was conducted in 1859, but the land was held back for military reasons. It included basically Hall’s Prairie and the area north of the Townline (96 Avenue) on this map. These properties are numbered as Blocks and Ranges.

3. Land opposite New Westminster on the Fraser River was surveyed by the Royal Engineers and auctioned off in 1861. These are the Lots numbered 1 to 14. Lot 1 held a Reserve for Indians (Tsimlanah and his family) and a portion, site of the old Revenue Station, was leased to Samuel W Herring, the first non-native settler in this district.

4. Pre-Emption claims are numbered 15 and up. A settler could mark off 160 acres of their own choosing as long as it was not part of surveyed land. The land would be surveyed on request of the pre-emptor. The first lands taken up for settlement were relatively open spaces, but often these were subject to flooding. Ideally some high ground for a house was favoured.

5. Township surveys were conducted in the 1870’s, to connect existing pre-emptions and the blocks and ranges into one system and identify parcels available for settlement. These are numbered by Quarter Section, Section and Township.

Yet another survey was conducted in the 1880’s, a different Township system, but that postdates this map.

Not all landowners were residents, and residents who are renting or squatting do not appear on the tax roll.  For this reason a list was imported from the 1881 Census and is offered  by area, as close as could be determined and is useful for additional names and viewing neighbourhoods. There are some variations in names due to handwriting in early records.

The reason for the maps

When first looking at the Bishop’s day trip with Henry Kells,  subject of the previous post here, it was assumed they were heading to the area later known as Port Kells, but further research showed it was the Serpentine settlement and the Bishop  visited Kells’ place there and his neighbours the Johnstons.   It was useful to make a map.  Then of course, a wider map was thought to be even more useful.

It is useful to put names with places and 1880 was an important year, being the first year that Brownsville and neighbouring settlements were unified in the municipality of Surrey.  All these people would pass  through Brownsville to get to New Westminster, the market town and administrative capital of the district.   It is also a year that predated the influx of settlers following the completion of the national railway.  Most of the properties are still not subdivided. There was still no school in Surrey at this time, and no church building.  The only  non-native settler cemetery had seven graves.  A public ferry across the Fraser was still some years in the offing.

An earlier map using the same data  was attached to  the the first post on this blog, but without names.  These new indexed maps were made to help with  this blog about Brownsville, but others may find them useful in another context.

How the maps were made

A base map was  created with ImapBC and GoogleEarth. Both are free. The government service provides a layer with the property survey lines as described above. Not being able to obtain the data in table format, it was necessary to copy the survey lines to Google Earth, draw the shapes along the property lines and identify the shapes with the Tax Roll names. To get the map to a practical version for inclusion in this blog, the map was copied to Google Maps, with some limitations.   Some data had to be left out and for clarity the map was split into two, as shown above.

It was decided to cut off the area of this map at East Delta and Langley for practical reasons, but it could easily be extended or employed for lists from other years.

The lines of road are drawn by eye from early paper maps. With localized topographical knowledge these could be tweaked into better form. They are interesting. For example the line of the Semiahmoo Trail on the Hudson Bay Company farm at Langley prairie followed a curving branch of the Nicomekl still evident today.

Anyone can make a similar map,   and if wanting to start with this data in Google Earth – which is then very easy to edit or adapt and extend with different data—the file  will be sent on request.


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